Culture & Employee Engagement
How to Build a Healthy Workplace Culture in the Hybrid Era
A healthy workplace culture is one of the most valuable assets a team can have. According to a recent survey from PwC, 72% of both leaders and employees feel that a strong, positive culture fuels successful change initiatives, and 67% agree that workplace culture is even more important than business strategies and operations.
As this survey also points out, 69% of senior leaders attribute much of their success during the pandemic to a healthy workplace environment. Bottom line: the culture of your team matters for collaboration, retention, morale, engagement, and performance as a whole. Keep reading to learn more about how a strong culture can positively impact your team and some steps you can take as a manager for improving your workplace environment.
Why Is a Healthy Workplace Environment Important?
With team members spending less time together as they divide their time between home and the office, company culture has come into sharp focus over these past two years. And this is actually a win for organizations.
A 2022 Organizational Cultural Research Report indicates that 35% of employees have noticed a dramatic shift in culture since the pandemic began, and 66 percent feel this positively influences their behavior and performance on a daily basis. Check out these other findings from the report, all of which make the case for building a healthy workplace culture:
- Employees who work in a positive culture are 3.8 times more likely to be engaged
- Employees who report their culture improved in the pandemic are 2.9 times more likely to experience high levels of engagement.
- Employees who do not feel engaged are 2.6 times more likely to leave their current position in search of a healthier culture.
It’s clear that workplace leaders stand to gain tremendously by prioritizing a healthy workplace environment. After all, a company culture is built from the top down. Next, let’s take a look at how you can get started.
Ideas to Improve Workplace Environment
1. Embrace Hybrid Work — With High Trust Levels
According to the same Organizational Cultural Research Report mentioned above, 70% of hybrid workers feel their culture is positive, and nearly 45 percent feel it’s improved. On the other hand, among on-site workers, only 58% and 37%, respectively, agree with these statements. On-site employees are also more likely to report a cultural decline, the data shows.
While old-hat leaders may still favor a butts-in-seat mentality, remote or hybrid work models are here to stay — and they’re the surest way to keep employees happy. In fact, it may even make them more productive.
But just because your workplace allows hybrid work doesn’t mean it embraces it with open arms, and this difference alone can significantly impact employee satisfaction and engagement levels. It all starts with trust — that is, showing you’re confident in your team members’ abilities to perform effectively without strict parameters or attendance-taking, whether they’re on site or at home. Close is a great example of a company that has welcomed remote work. Not only are they fully remote, but they also focus on weekly deliverables rather than working hours to allow their employees maximum flexibility.
2. Actively Challenge Proximity Bias
Even the most well-intentioned leaders can fall victim to bias, especially in the hybrid workplace where proximity bias has become more of a challenge than ever. This tendency, whereby in-office employees receive more favorable treatment than their remote colleagues, can cost hard-working team members advancement opportunities and lead to poor engagement and retention.
Be ruthless about sticking to your company’s new hybrid schedule — that is, make sure you and your team members aren’t putting in more time in the office than your policy dictates — and evaluate your team’s performance by clearly established KPIs rather than how visible they make themselves. For more tips on how to combat this influence, check out our article, “Here's How to Overcome Proximity Bias in the Hybrid Workplace.”
3. Promote Diversity and Inclusion
As more and more businesses go hybrid or remote, leaders have an unprecedented opportunity for building more diverse teams. Research shows this can have a positive impact on organization performance: According to their “Diversity Wins” Report, McKinsey reported that organizations in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity outperformed those in the fourth quartile in terms of profitability by 36%.
Take advantage of the new digital workplace and diversify your talent pool by widening your recruitment net to include a more diverse range of faces and backgrounds. Also reconsider your typical job qualifications. For instance, does a degree — or even extensive experience — in your field of business really matter, or can your team benefit from some outside perspectives? Consider Facebook, for example, who has been hiring remote senior-level executives outside of Silicon Valley and the tech world since the pandemic.
Additionally, encourage team members to collaborate on projects with coworkers they don’t normally interact with or gravitate toward. Being paired with someone outside of their usual circle can help expand their horizons and see things from a different perspective.
4. Encourage a Sustainable Work-Life Balance
The pressure — whether overt or unspoken — to be “always on” and available in the hybrid workplace can push hybrid teams past their mental, emotional, and physical limits: A 2022 report from the American Psychological Association reveals that nearly 80% of U.S. employees suffer from work-related stress. Moreover, three in five experience chronic fatigue, and lack of interest, energy, or motivation due to stress. In other words, burnout is rampant, but healthy work-life balance is the cure. Here’s how to build it into your culture:
- Establish and maintain reasonable working hours. 24/7 access to virtual communication makes it all too easy to send an email, text, or Slack message at any time. However, this can create an unhealthy pattern and leave team members without the chance to unplug and refresh.
- Encourage time off. Based on a poll of 2,000 workers, 50% would rather have unlimited PTO than a higher salary. But as desirable as this perk is, not all employees feel comfortable using their PTO, and some even work during vacation. This is a recipe for burnout, so normalize taking time off by doing it yourself and encouraging your team to do so as well.
- Make time off sacred. Make it a policy to avoid pinging team members on PTO to ensure they fully disconnect while on vacation.
Build Your Best Team with a Positive Workplace Culture
You can have the most talented employees at your disposal, but if you don’t have a healthy workplace culture, your team will fail to reach its full potential. Get started on the tips above to institute a culture makeover, and your team will be sure to reap the benefits in the years to come.
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